Jubilant Laura Collett celebrated her first Event Rider Masters (ERM) success when Chatsworth staged the opening leg of this season’s competition over the weekend.
Collett led from pillar to post on London 52 to land the Dodson and Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials, only a week after another of her horses suffered an injury at Badminton.
“I’ve had many highs and lows throughout my career, but the emotional rollercoaster I have been on over the past few days has topped it all,” said the 25-year-old Collett, whose eventing operation is based at Cheltenham.
“I have never been as low as when one of my horses picked up an injury last week. But London 52 has picked me up from a very dark hole.”
The ten-year-old London 52 was bought three years ago as “a potential superstar” and belongs not only to Collett but also to Keith Scott and Karen Bartlett.
“The horse in unbelievable,” added Collett. “He’s finished second so many times. I just can’t believe it. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to sit on him.
“Three years ago, he’d never even seen a cross-country fence. He’s come a hell of a long way, so roll on the future.”
The pair kicked off the Chatsworth event, which featured 30 horses and riders, with a solid dressage display to take the lead.
They were then one of seven clear rounds over Di Boddy’s showjumping course, and their margin at the top of the leaderboard increased when close rival, Sam Watson, of Ireland, ran out in the cross-country.
Collett and London 52 had 29 seconds in hand when they started their cross-country round and after picking up only 7.6 time faults, they sailed to victory to land the £16,000 first prize.
It was a terrific effort, particularly as Chatsworth’s cross-country course is renowned as a tough test of speed and stamina.
With its long pulls over hill and dale and its relentless series of technical questions, it is no surprise that it sees so few double-clears.
Only six riders have made the time here over the last decade, while the average number of time faults collected sits between 11.7 and a whopping 22.
Tom McEwen made it a British one-two in the event as he took second place on Barbara Cooper’s Figaro Van Het Broekxhof, with whome he recently won the Grantham Cup at Belton.
“I’m lost for words,” said McEwen, who was making the ERM podium for the first time.
“I’m delighted for the horse and delighted for the owners. It was a great weekend on a real busy track. You have to ride with your brain, rather than too much bravery.”
Lucky Jackson took third spot for New Zealand, riding Gillian Greenleas’s Superstition II. She said: “I’m super-chuffed because he’s still green, extravagant and pretty arrogant at times. I needed to give him a second longer to assess the fences.”